Monday, 20 August 2018

Trouble at Allsopp (part three)

It sounds like this particular annual meeting of shareholders was a lively affair. Unsurporisingly, as they were pretty pissed off. Both with the financial results and the management of the company.

The shareholders gave the directors a very hard time in the dicussion. It looks as if they had been aware before the flotation that sales were falling. Was that one of the reasons they were prepared to sell the company?

"The Hon. G. H. ALLSOPP, M.P., seconded the motion. Considerable discussion, of an acrimonious nature through out, followed.

Mr. DAVIS maintained that the deplorable condition of the concern was due to the circumstances connected with the birth, parentage, and education of the company. The prospectus distinctly promised that the proprietors would get large dividends, but there was really a sudden falling off in the sales before the company was floated. There had been a reduction in the net profits of the company in the past five years amounting to an average of £30,000 a year. Altogether he considered the failure of the company a most disgraceful one. The first and foremost of the causes for their present position was the excessive price paid for the business — (hear, hear) - and so long as this dead weight hung about the company he believed there would be no improvement in their affairs. Another great cause of their present position was that the directors had not “stuck to the ship." He further maintained that there had been gross mismanagement and excessive expenditure, and concluded by moving the following amendment: — “That this meeting of shareholders, in accepting and adopting the balance-sheet and report now presented and approving the payment of a further dividend of 3 per cent. per annum on the preference stock, hereby condemn in the most emphatic manner the business of the company during the past year, which has again resulted in a great diminution of profit without a corresponding reduction in the working expenses."

Mr. J. T. JENKINS seconded the motion."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 244.
So the price paid for the company had been too high, most of the original owners had buggered off with their profit and left it to newcomers to run the compant and the management was crap. That's quite a strong motion of censure, but probably one the board deserved.

"Mr. JEFFERIES (Ipswich) expressed disappointment at the meagre report presented to the proprietors, and complained of the amount paid to the board in the past year — £2,429.

Mr. Cunnington asked for further details about the business, and maintained that such information could have been afforded by the directors without imparting any “trade secrets.” He was glad that some of the members of the Allsopp family still remained on the board, and he considered that the fact that the Hon. George Allsopp held the same amount of ordinary stock as he had at the outset ought to inspire the proprietors with confidence that there was a future for the undertaking if it were properly worked. The subject of the reconstruction of the company was worthy of consideration."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 244.
So depite paying themselves handsomely, the directors had produced a very meagre report on the state of the company. It sounds liuke they didn't want shareholders to realise just how bad things were.

Not only were sales poor, expenses were also out of hand, with a bloated workforce.
"Mr. LEE SMITH contended that the staff at Burton was too great, and that the expenses were excessive.

The CHAIRMAN, in reply, stated that the directors would do their utmost to reduce the expenses, and there would be a considerable diminution in them owing to the closing of the old brewery. More than 100 persons were employed at Burton, and he did not think it would serve any useful end if he were to mention all their salaries. The secretary received £1,500 a year, and he considered that that gentleman earned it.

The amendment was then put to the meeting and was carried by an overwhelming majority, only three hands being held up against it.

The CHAIRMAN stated that it would be for the directors to decide what they would do in view of the expression of opinion contained in the amendment."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 244.
Thouh 100 employees isn't a huge number, when you consider Allsopp produced over half a million barrels a year. In 1884 they brewed around 850,000 barrels and were the third l;argest brewery in the UK after Guinness and Bass.*

* Document ACC/2305/8/246 part of the Courage archive held at the London Metropolitan Archive.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Trouble at Allsopp (part two)

I can understand by being caught out by the sudden switch to the tied house system. But the next problem of Allsopp's is unforgivable for a brewery whose success was based on the quality and reputation of their beer.

It sounds like they had been getting a lot of returned beer. Bad for your reputation and also costly.

"The difficulties connected with their products — the beers they had sent out — had added very much to their misfortunes. They had been obliged to come to the decision to change the head of their brewing establishment, and accordingly Mr. Hutton, who had been for some time in the service of Messrs Younger, of Edinburgh, was appointed head of the brewing department. It was early days yet for them to state whether the experiment had been absolutely satisfactory, but, as far as they were able to judge, he believed it would prove so. Their last report from their chief London agent was extremely satisfactory, for it stated that there were at present practically no complaints, that the percentage of “returns" was the lowest for many years, and that they heard almost daily that their beers were giving great satisfaction. They were also most anxious to put the distributing department upon the best footing they could. They regretted that their London agent, Mr. Parker, who had served the company so long, had sent in his resignation, but they had not the least doubt that under the management of the gentlemen who had been appointed in Mr. Parker‘s stead the London department would be imbued with all the vigour which was necessary if they were to succeed in their business. They had placed only £76,000 of Five per Cent. Debenture stock out of the £400,000 which they had been empowered to raise, and, after due consideration, they had come to the conclusion that the cost of obtaining fresh capital at the present moment would be too great to enable them to make a profit on it. They were not in want of any fresh capital at the moment. With respect to the future, it would be very dangerous for him to prophesy in any way as to the course of their business next year. He regretted that he had not been able to go into minute details concerning their business, but it would have been very unwise for him to have done so in the face of the competition and opposition to which their trade was subject."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 244.
William Younger was a well respected brewery. It looks like Alsopp headhunted him. To replace your head brewer was a very drastic move. I wonder where the old one went?

It sounds like Alsopp was having a lot of beer returned. This was not only bad for the firm's reputation but also expensive. Customers expected to be reimbursed for beer that was unsaleable.

"Commercially sensitive" is a common excuse for not making material public today. It seems to have a long history. More likely that the predictions for the next year weren't good and they didn't want to scare the investors. Or they could just have had no idea what was going to happen and no plan. The management doesn't seem to have been very proficient.

It didn't help that many of the Allsopp family took the money they made from the flotation and ran, leaving others to run the business. It tells you much about what they considered the future propects of the brewery.

Next we'll be hearing the reaction of the shareholders. They weren't happy bunnies. They'd expected to do well out of their investment but were feeling duped.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Let's Brew - 1953 Truman P2

Still no let up with my infernal plugging of my new book, Austerity!. Maybe if I'd chosen a more commercial topic I wouldn't have to try so hard.

Truman brewed Bitter at both their London and Burton breweries. The London-brewed ones, LK and PA, were both fairly low gravity at 1031º and 1036º, respectively. The burton ones were stronger, even the weakest, P2, being 1037º.

I know from the Whitbread Gravity Book what this was called down the pub: Burton Ordinary Bitter. Which seems a fair enough description.

This particular P2 was parti-gyled with P1. Nothing shocking in that. It’s the third guest at the party that’s the surprise: XX Mild. I’m sometimes left scratching my head as to what the difference between Bitter and Mild is. This is one of those cases.

All English hops again, some from Truman’s own hop gardens. The dry hopping is a guess, but probably about right, based on what I’ve seen at other breweries.

1953 Truman P2
pale malt 7.00 lb 81.78%
high dried malt 1.25 lb 14.60%
crystal malt 60 L 0.06 lb 0.70%
No. 3 invert sugar 0.25 lb 2.92%
Fuggles 90 mins 0.50 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1037
FG 1008.5
ABV 3.77
Apparent attenuation 77.03%
IBU 20
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP013 London Ale (Worthington White Shield)

Other Truman's recipes are available in my new book:

Friday, 17 August 2018

The new system of bottling (part two)

Were on to actual bottling this time. Though I feel a little shortchanged, based on the article's title.

Because, despite it saying "The Brewlng of Ale Specially for Bottling", there's actually bugger all about that in the article. Just a single sentence that really only says that the beer should be in good condition. That's pretty effing obvious.

"The question of brewing beers, specially for bottling by the new system, forms but a secondary consideration; but, of course, the ale or stout must be sound and in good condition. Nothing is subtracted from the natural strength of the beer, but, by the addition thereto of carbonic acid gas, it increases the specific gravity, and stays, at the same time, a certain amount of fermentation, as this gas, under pressure, of itself forms an anti-ferment — there is nothing else in the shape of anti-ferment or chemicals required. The yeast germ that is the cause of fermentation in the old system is, in the new, thrown down in a half-formed state, so that pressure in the bottle is not increased. Endeavours should be made to give the public bottled beers without deposit ; this is actually the result where a quick trade is done, but in a month’s time then a deposit of about half is the result as compared with the old system. As a proof that the light ales are now preferred by the public to the old heavy and heady kinds, we have only to notice the rapid strides that Lager and such like beers have made in all parts of the world. I will now give a slight explanation of the simple means required to bottle on the new system."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 88.

I'm not sure that I understands why force-carbonating would increase the specific gravity. If the beer throws a sediment after a month, that implies to me that there is a fermentation taking place. Which would inevitably raise the pressure in the bottle, despite the author's claim that it wouldn't. Does CO2 pressure prevent fermentation?

"The ale is either pumped or racked in the ordinary way into a cylinder of, say, 40-gallons capacity. It is then hermetically closed, and then the same pump, by turning certain taps, extracts the atmospheric air, and afterwards forces in carbonic acid gas, mixing the same by means of rotating fans or agitators thoroughly with the malt liquor. Bottling can commence immediately the pressure is obtained, averaging 25 lbs. by the gauge, but as the pressure would be lessened by the withdrawal of the beer in the cylinder to the bottling machine, a little extra gas is occasionally forced in to form a cushion on the top of the beer, and by this means the uniform pressure is maintained until the last bottle has been filled. One great and conspicuous advantage in the new system of bottling is the total elimination of fobbing. This has hitherto been a great drawback and loss also, but it is now entirely overcome, and the most fobby beers can be bottled with equal rapidity, as if they were water. The beer falls simply by gravitation from the cylinder into the bottle through the cork filling machine. Pressure is admitted into the empty bottles immediately before filling, so that a weak or starred bottle is actually tested before the beer enters, so that the loss of beer is minimised from bursting bottles, and the loss from bottles bursting after they are filled is almost nil, as pressure in the bottle does not increase; thus the whole loss incurred under the old system is entirely obviated by the new."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 88.

By "pressure is admitted into the empty bottles" I assume that the author means that pressurised CO2 is forced in the bottles. Is that what prevents fobbing? I'm sure that he's being optimistic about all losses being avoided. No system is that good. Even a modern bottling machine will have some losses.

"The arrangement for bottling screw-stoppered bottles is similar to that of the corking machine, and the action is singularly simple. By lowering the handle of a balance weight the stopper holder is lowered, and the stopper is then inserted. By releasing the handle the counterweight lifts the stopper into a receptacle, into which the bottle is placed by inserting the neck up into it and resting the bottom on a block provided for that purpose. By pulling the handle on the right side over to the front, a rubber is, by hydraulic pressure, pressed tightly round the neck of the bottle, the act of pulling the handle having the effect of pushing up a ram plunger, which forces water against the sides of the rubber, and thus closes on the bottle neck, making a tight lateral joint. The beer is now run into the bottle by opening two cocks, one in communication with the top of the cylinder, and one with the bottom, and when the bottle is filled they are turned off and the stopper lowered by means of the counterbalanced lever. The winch handle at top connected with the stopper holder is now turned round and round until the stopper is screwed home into its proper place in the bottle; by releasing the lever on the right sends back the rubber to its normal size, and the bottle with its stopper in being withdrawn completes the operation. The process goes on with marvellous rapidity by unskilled lads, the bottles being placed into boxes ready for direct delivery into vans. This is no imaginary or ideal system that I have chosen to call the new, but is actually in daily operation at several bottling establishments in London and elsewhere; and, as time is a true test for any innovation upon old forms, then I assert most emphatically I have succeeded in proving this “new" system to be a true and honest one, both scientifically and commercially, by being able to refer to those who have adopted it, and have had it in constant use for about eight years."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 88.

I don't really understand the sdescription of the bottling process. A diagram would have been usefulThe author is clearly keen on this new bottling system. Though it's not the one that eventually triumphed. Chilled and filtered bottled beer was the way ahead. After primary fermentation the beer was tranferred to a tank where it cooled to almost 0º C to precipitate out any gunk and then filtered so that it was crystal clear. This process removed most of the yeast and left a bright beeer without sediment.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Berlin day four

It’s another hot night. Though I’m well enough anaesthetised not to notice. Dolores not so much.

She looks knocked when she wakes me with a cup of tea. We always start the day with tea. When I’m working, it’s me that makes it.

The kids knock on our door, as arranged, at nine. Andrew isn’t looking great. Rather than coming down to breakfast, he lies on our bed.

Alexei certainly hasn’t lost his appetite. Though I can see the sadness in his eyes about the lack of bacon again. I openly weep at the buffet, staring at the emptiness where the bacon should be. How will I ever recover from a blow like this? There aren’t even any meatballs.

After desultorily consuming some scrambled egg and a sausage, I go all health food and get some fruit. I’m sure it’s doing me good.

We seem to have an awful lot of stuff to pack. Even with a spare bag we didn’t use on the way out, it’s hard to fit everything in? How can that be? It isn’t like we’ve bought loads. Other than the beer, of course.

After eventually managed to force shut our bags we trundle to reception to check out. Andrew still isn’t his best.

“How would a taxi to Haupbahnhof cost?” Dolores asks the receptionist.

“16 or 17 euros.” A taxi it is, then. This is so extravagant. In turns up in just a couple of minutes.

We bounce through the city centre quite quickly. It is Sunday morning, after all. Soon we’re standing with our pile of bags outside the station.

“This is so much fun.” I say.

“Shut up, stupid dad.”

“Thanks, Lexie. I appreciate your support.”

The first class lounge in Haupbahnhof is much nicer than the one in Amsterdam. And they have free alcoholic drinks and food. We find ourselves seats and I fetch the kids cola. I can’t find the beer, though. It turns out you have to order that from the waiter. And I’ve just missed him.

Dolores goes off in search of a paper shop. A minute or two later, the waiter returns with a half litre of Hefeweizen for me. Dolores ordered it on her way out, he explains. She’s very good to me.

I sip my beer while reading Private Eye. Andrew has been reading them to. I’ve got so behind with them, I brought four unread copies. Very handy for a long train journey.

Fifteen minutes before our train is due to depart we head for the platform. The station is mobbed. As is the escalator raising us to the platform. The idiots in front of us stop when they get to the top. We almost stumble over them.

“I just pushed them out of the way.” Dolores says. She can be usefully brutal at such moments.

We’re booked into a first class compartment again. In the carriage directly behind the locomotive. This time we arrive at the same time as the compartment’s other occupants. A Dutch woman and what must be her granddaughter.

Unfortunately, Dolores says something to them in Dutch. That’s a shame. The Dutch can be terribly indiscrete when abroad, assuming no-one understands them. We’ve had great fun with this in the past. A “dooie” as goodbye is enough to get them thinking about what they might have said.

The train is much cooler going this way. I can tell because I keep having to go for a piss. I didn’t have to once on the way out. Or at the beer festival. Sweating too much.

When we get to Bad Bentheim we get out to watch a workman unhook the German locomotive, then hook on the Dutch one. That’s literally hook and unhook. Amazing that trains still use something as simple as a dirty great hook.

After a while the conductor tells us to get back on the train and close the doors. Something about the airco. I don’t feel like arguing the toss.

We’ve been running late, but pull into Amsterdam Centraal just about on time. The station is mobbed. As always. Luckily a number 2 tram is waiting for us. Soon it’s whisking us homewards.

Our flat hasn’t burnt down. And the plants in the garden haven’t died of thirst. That’s a relief.

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1946 Shepherd Neame AK

I've still not finished pushing my new book, Austerity!.  Hurry up and get your copy or I'll be bombarding you with this crap for the rest of the year.

Weakest of all Shepherd Neame’s Pale Ales was AK. Even before WW II it was pretty watery, with a gravity of just 1031º. By 1942 it was down to a mere 1027º. And from there, there was nowhere down left to go.

This must be one of the last brews, because by 1947 it had disappeared. Like most other AKs. Always a relatively light style, it had been one of the weakest Pale Ales at a brewery. When world wars caused gravities to fall, it was often an early victim. As beers higher up in the Pale Ale hierarchy fell to a similar strength, AK inevitably got the chop. Most didn’t make it past WW I. Almost none past WW II.

Just for a change, there’s a little black malt in this one. And the BA and BB it was parti-gyled with, obviously. Other than that, it’s the same as their other Pale Ale recipes. All use exactly the same hops in the same proportions.

1946 Shepherd Neame AK
pale malt 5.25 lb 84.00%
black malt 0.125 lb 2.00%
flaked barley 0.75 lb 12.00%
malt extract 0.125 lb 2.00%
Fuggles 120 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.375 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.125 oz
OG 1027
FG 1006
ABV 2.78
Apparent attenuation 77.78%
IBU 12
Mash at 152º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 120 minutes
pitching temp 62º F
Yeast WLP007 Dry English Ale

My new book is available is packed with watery recipes like this:

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Berlin day three (part two)

“Can we stay down here for a bit?” Alexei asks several times when we get to Weber Wiese U-Bahn station. “It’s nice and cool down here on the platform.” He’s not wrong. But we’ve an appointment to keep. With Dolores. Never good to keep her waiting. At least Alexei sent her a message to warn that we’d be 30 minutes later than originally planned.

“Andrew can you stop walking so fast and dodging between people. It’s really fucking annoying.” The sun is getting to Alexei, again. And Andrew’s habit of walking stupidly fast. There’s Andrew at the front sprinting and me at the rear snapping. It’s driving Alexei nuts. He want to keep the column united.

Dolores has nabbed the same seat that we had yesterday. They are just about perfect. I’m parched and Dolores hasn’t brought any soft drinks, as I’d expected.

“I’ll go and get some from the Vietnamese shop.” I volunteer.

It seems further than I remember. I’m getting even hotter. I feel like passing out on the way back and have to pause for a while. Though it could be due to necking that bottle of impulse Schnapps a bit too quickly.

When I return, the kids are most of the way through 40 cl of cider. Andrew is now looking better than I feel. “I see you’re feeling better again, Andrew.”

“Don’t start with that crap again, dad.”

As Schönramer is close, and has half litre glasses, I decide to go there.

“Anyone else want a beer?”

“Yes, please.” They all reply. “Half a litre.”

“Can you manage to carry them all?” Dolores asks.

“No problem, the glasses have handles. I can easily manage two in each hand.”

Which I can. Though they are quite heavy. Not sure how far I could carry them. My admiration for beer garden waitresses who can manage five litres in each fist goes up immensely. They must have strong arms.

We stick with Schönramer Pils for the next round. I’m, at heart, a very lazy person. It is very hot. And the Schönramer is pretty nice. When otherwise will I can chance to drink it?  That’s how I justify it to myself.

While I’m waiting for the next round to be poured, Andreas Krennmair and his wife roll up. We’d arranged to meet somewhere around here.

Andreas recently published "Historic German and Austrian Beers for the Home Brewer". Which is sort of a Germanic version of my Vintage Beer book. Andreas himself is from Austria, but lives in Berlin.

I talk with Andreas about historic brewing while his wife and Dolores chat about Derry Girls. They’re both big fans.

Dolores fetches me and Alexei a sausage. Thüringers, of course. They’re still dead good. We’ve barely walked more than 20 metres from our seats today. I call that a win. I’m just sticking with the Schönramer. I’m really starting to get a taste for it. Much more so than yesterday. Sometimes you need a few pints to truly get the measure of a beer.

We don’t stay too late. It’s starting to get more crowded and rowdy.

The shopping Dolores did this morning was mostly provisions for the journey back. “What sort of beer do you want?” She asked.

“Some Bock.”

“Any particular type?”

“No,  just Bock.”

Back in our room, Dolores shows me the only Bock she could find: Maisel & Friends Chocolate Bock. She can see that I’m not impressed.

“It’s the only one they had, honestly.”

I take Andrew with me and head off to Rewe to see if she’s right.

Mmm. I can find Kindl Heller and Dunkel Bock, lurking there in full view. While I’m busy with them, Andrew grabs a bottle of whiskey.

“It’s produce of the USA and Canada according to the label, dad. That sounds classy.” He takes it anyway.

“Look. Dolores,” I say when we return “Bock. Two types.”

“It wasn’t there before. Honestly.” There’s that word again: honestly.

Our room has a kitchen, including a decent-sized fridge. With a freezer compartment. Dolores brought some bags for making ice cubes. Very handy in this weather. I can ice my beer. Which I do. I make no apologies.

Dolores has also bought a huge pile of Berliner Pils for the kids. A couple of six packs of bottles plus some cans. I hope it’s going to be enough.

Yesterday’s leftovers are enough to feed me and the kids. Now there’s value for you. My duck is just as yummy as a day ago. Man, that place is good.

We spend the evening gazing at the sunset on the roof terrace. This time we’ve grabbed the longer seats and can lie decadently down. The day slowly slipping away. We retire to our beds at ten.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Trouble at Allsopp

In the 1880s and 1890s many breweries were transformed from partnerships into limited companies. The rewards reaped by investors in Guinness and William McEwan made brewery flotations hugely popular. Most had little difficulty in finding eager buyers and were heavily over-susscribed.

When Allsopp, one of the largest and most successful brewers, was floated, there was no shortage of eager investors. But their dreams of riches soon turned sour.

"He [Mr. Henry R. Grenfell] then went through the balance-sheet, and compared the salient items with those of the previous statement, pointing out that the reserve now stood at £15,000, or a diminution of £10,000, the latter sum having been used last year for the purpose of paying the in terest on the preference stock in full. The undivided balance of profit and loss was £17,244, against £24,869, arising from the diminution in the profits of the business. On the credit side the business premises and goodwill figured at the same amount as last year — £2,241,758, but the freehold and lease hold houses purchased stood at £193,109, against £180,410. This included freehold and leasehold houses which had been purchased for their business, as the stockholders were aware; and they had also embarked in this item a certain sum which had been made over to them as agents by the vendors, while out of their own resources they had made sundry loans in excess of those of the previous year. The item of sundry investments stood at £106,142, against £56,000 a year previously, which was to be accounted for by the fact that they had invested £50,000 in Victoria Government Treasury bonds. They were naturally at this time of the year, before the begin ning of the buying season, obliged to have a large sum of money in hand ; and they believed they had made a good investment, upon which they could at any moment raise money. They had in cash at the banker’s and in hand £111,747. He then went through the profit and loss account, remarking that the agency expenses amounted to £90,800. This was a very heavy charge, and he would have been very glad if he could have held out any expectation that the item would show any serious diminution, but he could not do so. The most distressing figure of all was the gross profit for the year, which had been £238,954, against £264,000 a year previously."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, pages 243 - 244.

The figures didn't look good and shareholders were understandably pissed off. Profits were falling every year and there wasn't enough money to pay a full dividend.

Mr. Grenfell tried to explai away the bad results. It doesn't sound like his audience was very convinced.

"Some of the causes of the falling off in their business had really nothing whatever to do with the company. It had been the practice at their meetings, on the part of some of the proprietors, to argue that the falling off in the profits was wholly due to the inception of the company, and the mode in which it was floated. (A SHAREHOLDER : “And bad management.") He, however, considered that the decline in the business was attributable to far more general causes. An immense amount of capital throughout the country had thus been diverted into the brewing trade, rendering it necessary — either by competition, tied houses, or other measures — to seek a revenue for those who had so invested their capital. Their own company had depended entirely for its profits upon free trade and not upon tied houses, and the necessity of acquiring tied house was not contemplated when the company was formed, and it had been one of the causes of their disasters. As he had explained, they had had to divert some of their own means into this channel, and to secure lease hold and freehold premises, and the old vendors had come to the assistance of the company for the purpose of increasing the amount so invested."
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 244.

Allsopp had been slow to acquire a tied estate, as had fellow Burton brewer Bass. But Bass was much more successful at getting its beer into rivals' pubs. The rush to by pubs was a by-product, as stated above, of brewery flotations. It left the new companies with bundles of cash. Which most used to buy up pubs, grossly inflating their prices.

The article following this one in The Brewers' Guardian gives an indication of the crazy prices:

"ON the 1st ult. Mr. F. G. Huggins offered for sale, at the Royal Hotel, Derby, the “Thorntree” Inn, an old licensed house in Tenant-street, Derby. There was a large attendance, and after a spirited competition the property was sold to Mr. Eadie, brewer, of Burton-on-Trent, for £3,710.
"The Brewers' Guardian 1892", 1892, page 244.

To put that into context, a pint of Mild cost 2d. And a brewery sold a barrel of basic Mild for around £1.50. You'd need to sell the pub several thousand barrels to get any sort of return on your investment. And Allsopp entered the game late and had to pay top prices to acquire pubs.

The £193,109 Allsopp spent on buying pubs probably only got them 50 - 60 premises. Not many for a brewery of their size (they brewed over half a million barrels a year).

More on the trouble at Allsopp soon.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Berlin day three (part one)

It’s another hot night. Though I’m well enough anaesthetised not to notice. Dolores not so much.

She wakes me with a cup of tea. Well, not literally, She doesn’t throw it over me. She puts it on my bedside table and says; “Good morning, Ronald.” It’s a very civilised way to start the day.

I can’t smell any bacon as I enter the breakfast room. That’s always depressing. It’s confirmed when I lift the lid on the warm food: scrambled egg, meatballs and little sausages. I can’t see the disappointment on Alexei’s face. But he manages to hold back the tears.

It’s the same as yesterday. Warm stuff for me, all sorts of bits and bobs for Dolores, warm then fruit for Alexei, glass of apple juice for Andrew.

We’re squeezing in another museum this morning. Well, me and the kids are. Dolores is doing some shopping while we hit the Deutsches Historisches Museum. Which is in the centre of town.

It’s simple enough to get there: U-Bahn to Alexanderplatz then one stop on the S-Bahn to Häckisches Markt. Plus a bit of walking.

The U-Bahn is bearable. But the S-Bahn boiling. Just one stop and we’re broiled. Worse is to come. It’s not a long walk, but much is totally exposed to the sun. We almost finish our supply of drinks in a couple of hundred metres.

“I wouldn’t fancy that job today.” Alexei says, pointing at two men in Mickey Mouse suits. There must be rivers of sweat flowing inside. I wonder how they clean the suits?

The museum feels wonderfully cool. Thank Liebknecht that it’s air conditioned.

We’ve been here before. It’s a really fascinating museum, if you’re into history, which me and both the kids are. Alexei is mostly interested in the weapons. While I like staring at the maps. Not sure what most attracts Andrew’s attention.

We’ve only just about reached WW I, when it’s time to leave. On reflection, maybe we should have skimmed the Middle Ages more. We’re meeting Dolores at the festival at one. And it’s twenty to one now.

The walk to the S-Bahn is even less fun than on the way out. But, as I took no photos on the way in, I need to get a few now.

“Dad, don’t stop to take stupid photos.”

“But, Lexie,  I . . .

“. . . need them for your blog. I know. Just hurry up.”

I can’t pass up the chance of snapping the Schloss Palast. Which is nearly finished. A pity that stupid Humboldt box plonked in front of it totally ruins the view of one side. I hope they aren’t going to leave that pile of crap there.

On the platform, we struggle with the ticket machine. It won’t accept my bank pass.

“It must be broken. Try mine.” Andrew suggests. His doesn’t work, either. We try to use a note, but now it’s expecting a card. We have to cancel and go through the whole process again. Great fun in this heat.

Andrew looks like he’s about to faint again. It is uncomfortably hot. I don’t feel that great myself, to be honest.

Naxt time find out what happens when we get to the festival.

German Historical Museum
Deutsches Historisches Museum
Unter den Linden 2,
10117 Berlin.
Tel: +49 30 203040 

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Let's Brew - 1948 Lees “C” Ale

There a good geographical spread of the breweries featured in the recipe section of my new book. Scotland, the North, London, the Midlands, East Anglia and the West Country, to name a few. Lees is one of three breweries from the Northwest.

I was so delighted when I came across this beer in the Lees records. Finally, I’d find out for certain what a “C” Ale was.

It must have been 10 years ago when I first stumbled across a reference to “C” Ale in the history of a Manchester brewery. What the hell was it and why did it have that name? It turned out that several breweries in the Manchester area brewed one at one time or another. It was obviously some sort of strong bottled beer. But as to what the name signifies, I’ve no idea.

Stylistically, it’s much like a London Burton Ale, just bottled rather than draught.

The grist is surprisingly similar to Lees Bitter from the same year. Except here there’s some crystal malt and rather more black malt. I’ve had to do some interpretation on the sugars, which are listed as simply Invert and CWA. No. 2 invert is my choice.

The hops are rather vaguely described in the log. I just know that they were English and from the 1947 crop.

The initial mashing heat of 150º F was raised to 152º F by an underlet.

1948 Lees "C" Ale
pale malt 7.50 lb 75.34%
black malt 0.125 lb 1.26%
crystal malt 60 L 0.50 lb 5.02%
enzymic malt 0.25 lb 2.51%
glucose 0.33 lb 3.31%
No. 2 invert sugar 1.25 lb 12.56%
Fuggles 105 mins 0.75 oz
Fuggles 60 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings 30 mins 0.50 oz
Goldings dry hops 0.25 oz
OG 1050
FG 1014
ABV 4.76
Apparent attenuation 72.00%
IBU 21
SRM 13
Mash at 150º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 105 minutes
pitching temp 59º F
Yeast Wyeast 1318 London ale III (Boddingtons)

Find more fun recipes like this in my new book:

Friday, 10 August 2018

Berlin day two (part two)

“Which exit should we take, Ronald”

“Er . . my guess would be to follow the fat old bloke with a festival glass hanging around his neck.” I say pointing at a fat, old bloke with a festival glass around his neck. I’m good at spotting fat, old blokes. I am, after all, one myself.

It turns out I was wrong. Our appointment is at lampposts 46 to 48. The exit plonks us at lamppost 34. I’ve given us a couple of hundred metres extra walking.

The kids don’t appreciate it.

“How much further do we have to go, dad?”

“Not far. We’ll be there in less than an hour, Alexei.”

“Very funny, dad.”

None of the people we’re meeting are to be seen between 46 and 48.

“We need some proper shade, Ronald. Not those stupid umbrellas.”

I agree with Dolores. Under a tree is the place to be. When it’s hot. Much cooler than under some crappy sunshade. Between the two appointed lampposts the shade is shit. Except for one spot. Directly behind the La Chouffe stand. Bench for eight under a tree, close to the bogs. Not that I expect to have much use for those, the rate I’m sweating at.

It’s also bang next to lamppost 48. Phew.

Once we’ve our arses parked, I trek out for beer for me and Dolores. While she gets the lads some cider. By the time I get back, their glasses are almost empty.

“I see you’re feeling better now, Andrew.”

“Shut up, dad, you insensitive twat.” The heat’s getting to everyone. The kids love me. I’m the best dad ever. Really. It’s just the heat that’s making them so nasty.

On a beer expedition, I bump into Joe Stange. He lives in Berlin and it’s a tradition for us to meet at the Biermeile. He’s a Lager fan, too. Which is why he suggested this stretch of the festival. He has a few others in tow, including some I’d planned to meet. Like that degenerate Peter Alexander. And his wife, who is perfectly charming. Also Tim Thomas, who edits Ullage, the Newbury CAMRA branch magazine.

Discussing arse-parking locations, we realise the one Dolores scouted out is better bet than theirs, in the not getting burnt to a fucking crisp stakes.

The kids seem to like their cider – Stowford Press, for the record. They’ve gobbled two 40 cl glasses down before I’ve managed 30 cl. What is going on? Just the kids making low-effort choices. Getting mum to fetch cider from the stand 10 metres away. While I’ve been roaming far and dustily in search of the more exotic. Tiring and drinking time consuming.

No wonder I don’t need a piss.

Returning from another trek to find beer the kids have two half litres of some yellow stuff in front of them. Disappointingly, most stands aren’t serving anything bigger than 40 cl.

“Where did you get that, Dolores?”

“Just over there.” She points to the Schönramer stall about 15 metres away.

“That’s handy.”

“It’s an excellent beer.” Joe chips in. “One of my favourite Pilsners.”

He explains how the head brewer is American, but wears lederhosen to work every day. “He’s gone native, then.” I remark. He also says that it’s one of the more bitter examples.

I get myself A Schönramer Pils. It is, indeed, very nice. With a firm, spicy bitterness. I could drink a few of these. Especially in this heat.

Also handily close by – even slightly closer than Schönramer – is a sausage stall. I do like a good sausage. The Krakauer is tempting, but I have to go for the Thüringer. It is from Dolores’s home state, after all.

Excuse me if I don’t list every beer, with a photo, this year. Most of the beers look the same, because I’ve been getting them in the festival glass. And my tasting notes get worse with every year that passes.

A few ciders in and Alexei is getting bored and Dolores – I don’t know. Just ausgefestet.

“Come back to the hotel by four, Ronald. Don’t stay here too long.”

“OK, I’ll be back by six thirty,”


“Yes, six thirty. That’s what I’m hearing. It might not be what you’re saying, but it’s what I’m hearing.”

“I’m not an idiot.”

“Half four.”

“OK, half four. No later. You watch your dad, Andrew.”

“Yes. Mum. I’ll make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.”

Dolores heads off, reassured.

“So, leave at six?”


“Half five.”


“Shots then?”

“Dad, no. We have to get back.”

We do have a good reason. We want to eat in a dead good Korean restaurant. Last year we had brilliant food there. But had to eat inside. An early arrival might secure one of the two outside tables. That’s why Dolores was so keen on a punctual return.

“I was only joking, Andrew.”

“Yes, dad.”

“No, honestly.”

“Let’s leave, then.”

I am really joking. No way I want to sit inside in this effing heat. Though the food might be worth it. Really ace, it is. I’m prepared to suffer for it.

Dolores looks relieved when we trumble up at about the appointed hour. Which is slightly depressing. Like she was expecting to be disappointed. Both at my turning up and ability to walk unaided.

“Time for a pre-prandial beer?”

“No. Ronald. I’m not risking missing a seat outside.”

She has a point. And the restaurant is licensed. Yummy food here we come.

Just as we arrive, one of the outside tables is vacated. Happy days. We rapidly park our arses and goggle at the menu. Not long. But with some really tasty stuff. I get duck. Dolores the squid. The kids share a barbecue.

Dead good, great value – my meal is around 8 euros and more than I could eat. No way I’m going to waste it. I have the remainders packaged up. That’ll do for tomorrow’s tea.

The day closes with more beers on the roof. With sunset settling slowly in the distance, we sip on our beers and forget just how shit the world is currently. For a moment.

Then I go to sleep. Thankfully.

New Arirang Restaurant
Warschauer Str. 22,
10243 Berlin.
Tel: +49 30 92353325

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Berlin day two (part one)

Brekkie is included and we duly trundle down to the breakfast room around nine.

It’s been a hot night. Even with two fans and windows wide open. Dolores hasn’t had the best night’s sleep. While I had just enough beer inside me to slump into unconsciousness despite the heat.

What’s that smell? Is it what I think it is? The happy morning smell? Yes it is: there’s bacon. Me and Alexei immediately get stuck into it. And the scrambled egg and meatballs. Dolores goes for a health food breakfast, with fruit and stuff. Though there is cake and jam, too. Andrew just stares glumly at a cup of coffee. He isn’t much of a morning person.

Despite most guests being middle-aged or older, there are plenty of dodgy tattoos on display.

“You should get a tattoo, Dolores.”

“No way. They look awful.”

“But don’t you want to look young and trendy?”


“Is that a maybe.”


Dolores is a woman of few words, at times.

Having limited time this trip, our schedule is rather full. We’re meeting people at the beer festival around noon, but before that intend fitting in a visit to the Stasi museum, which isn’t far away.

As it’s already pretty hot, we take the U-Bahn. It’s only three stops.

The museum is located in one building of the former terrain of the MfS (Ministerium für Staatssicherheit). The complex is enormous, at least a couple of dozen different buildings. Each of which housed different department. They were clearly very keen on state security.

The museum is in the headquarters building, where the minister and the top officials had their offices.

“It’s all a bit tatty looking.” I remark to Dolores after looking around the minister’s office suite.

“I know. Did you see the room where he slept? Not very fancy at all. Though he did have a tiled bathroom. No-one in the DDR had that.

The “posh” rooms all have the cheap wood panelling I’ve seen in other official communist buildings. It hasn’t aged well. It looks like they never renovated the building after its initial construction in the late 1950s. Considering this was where one of the most important people in the country worked, it’s pretty grotty.

It’s hot inside. As well as the crappy décor, they obviously couldn’t afford airco. There’s occasional relief by an open window.

The heat is getting to be too much for Andrew. He’s looking even whiter than usual. So like a whither shade of milk. We worry that he’s getting heatstroke and sit him down. While Dolores makes sure he doesn’t pass out, Alexei and I continue through the museum.

He’s dead impressed by all the hidden cameras. And the guns, obviously. Though there aren’t many of those. From the 1960s on the Stasi went in for psychological rather than physical violence.

The sheer number of people who worked for them as “unofficial agents”  is staggering. Which has me wondering how many people I met who were in their employ. Statistically, it must have been at least half a dozen. Probably more. Just as well I kept going on about peace and socialism, however much eye-rolling it caused in Dolores.

The gadget section includes apparatus for opening letters. I wonder which one they used for my correspondence with Dolores? I know for certain that they opened at least some, because there were photocopies of some in Dolores’s Stasi file.

“I always assumed all our letters were being read and was very careful about what I wrote. Not too much praise for Stalin. It’s a bit like the internet, Lexie. Nothing is private.”

“Yes, dad. You keep saying that.”

“Doesn’t make it any less true.”

A passing stranger gave Andrew a bottle of coke and it seems to have perked him up. That and sitting outside in the fresh – if warm – air. But we can’t hang around recuperating. We’ve a beer festival to go to. And we’re already late.

Thankfully the U5 will take us directly to it. Which it does.

Find out what happens when we arrive next time.

Ruschestraße 103, Haus 1
10365 Berlin.
Tel: +49 (0)30 - 553 68 54

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Let's Brew Wednesday - 1959 Fullers Nourishing Stout

It wasn’t until the late 1950s that Fullers finally got around to changing P to NS in the brewhouse. Even though the beer had been marketed as Nourishing Stout for more than a decade.

It was unusual in being the only beer in Fullers range that wasn’t parti-gyled. Which probably made it quite uneconomical to brew. It was produced in batches of a little over 100 barrels in a brewhouse with a normal brew length of 300-500 barrels. 100 barrels was probably about the minimum amount the equipment could cope with.

The recipe hasn’t changed a great deal since 1949. There are still three malts: pale, black and crystal.  The sugars remain PEX (for which I’ve substituted No. 2 invert), Special Dark (No. 4 invert) and two types of caramel: London caramel and Carmeline.

From Whitbread Gravity Book analyses for Nourishing Stout, I can see that it wasn’t tinkered with after primary fermentation. Some breweries added lactose at racking time.

The hops were Worcester Fuggles from the 1958 crop and Goldings varieties from 1957.

1959 Fullers Nourishing Stout
pale malt 3.00 lb 44.44%
black malt 0.75 lb 11.11%
crystal malt 60 L 0.50 lb 7.41%
flaked maize 0.50 lb 7.41%
No. 2 invert 0.250 lb 3.70%
No. 4 invert 1.250 lb 18.52%
caramel 2000 SRM 0.50 lb 7.41%
Fuggles 90 min 0.75 oz
Fuggles 30 min 0.50 oz
Goldings Varieties 30 min 0.25 oz
OG 1031.5
FG 1011.5
ABV 2.65
Apparent attenuation 63.49%
IBU 22
SRM 54
Mash at 145º F
Sparge at 170º F
Boil time 90 minutes
pitching temp 61º F
Yeast WLP002 English Ale

This recipe appear in my new wonderful book about brewing after WW II:

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Berlin day one

It’s become a tradition to visit Berlin in August. Principally to visit the Berliner Biermeile, the world’s least geeky beer festival. Which is why I love it.

We usually fly, but this year decided to take the train instead. Mostly because Tegel is such a shithole. And inadequate on just about every level. It looks like they’ve done nothing but essential maintenance for several decades. I guess because the new airport was supposed to be up and running years ago.

As our train isn’t until 11:00, we’re in no rush. Which is how I like to travel.

“I’m just off to Ton Overmars for some train beers, Dolores.”

“What about all the beer on the floor?”

“That isn’t train beer.”

“When are you going to drink it?”

“On the train.”

“I meant the beer on floor.”

“I’m saving that for a special occasion. That’s special beer.”

“Grolsch Session IPA is a special beer?”

“An especially weird one.”

The selection of cans is disappointing. Most of it’s watery thirst-quenching beer. I’m after something with more kick. I get 7 cans of Stone IPA. A bit weird, I know, seeing as it was brewed in Berlin.

Another change this year: both the kids are coming along. For Alexei it will be his first chance to join in with the drinking at the festival. Lucky him.

We jump on a tram just before ten. Thankfully, it isn’t too packed. All those terrorist bastards are probably still having breakfast. The bastards. Coming over here, clogging up our trams. It’s really annoying. It’s not even as if we live anywhere even vaguely central.

As we have first class tickets, we can get a free drink in the NS lounge. And relax somewhere quiet and air-conditioned. It’s probably the coolest we’ll be all day.

The train leaves from platform 10B. When we troll up there it’s packed. Almost every international train I take nowadays is jam packed. The ones headed for Belgium are particularly bad. We have reserved seats. No need to push our way through the mob when the train pulls in and opens its doors.

I usually leave seat-grabbing to Dolores. Years of taking overcrowded Deutsche Reichsbahn* trains have left her with particularly well skilled at elbowing through crowds.

When we get to our compartment two young women are already seated there. Not in our seats, mind. We plonk ourselves down and spread out our supplies on the table. Reading material, sandwiches and, of course, beer. My Stone IPA and a six-pack each of Heineken Pils for the young ‘uns.

The journey takes six and a half hours. Despite only being around 650 km. One of the reasons it takes so long is the number of stops the train makes. Six in the Netherlands alone and another ten in Germany. That’s an average of one stop every 40 km or so. Ridiculous for an international train. Without changing the infrastructure, they could easily lop a couple of hours off the journey time.

It’s quite a warm day. Soon it becomes obvious that the air conditioning isn’t really up to the job. The compartment starts to warm, even though we keep the door closed, as recommended by the conductor.

"It looks like Australia outside. Remember when we took the train from Melbourbe to Sydney, Dolores?"

When the train stops at Bad Bentheim to change locomotives, me and the kids stretch our legs on the platform. It’s pretty warm. And while the switch is being made the airco is shut off.

“We’d best get back on, dad.” Andrew warns after a while, “The train will be leaving soon. We don’t want to get left behind.”

“I just want to take a few more photos.”

“Jesus, Dad, stop messing about and get back on the train.” Alexei says impatiently.

“Just a couple more. I need stuff for the blog.”

“You and your stupid blog.”

It’s noticeably warmer in the compartment than before. I open another can of IPA for purely refreshment purposes. It’s not like I’m a pisshead or anything.

“Look like you’re having fun, Alexei.”

“Stop taking photos all the time, dad.”

“I need  . . .”

“I know, you need them for your stupid blog.”

I manage to limit myself to one can an hour. Very restrained.

“Moderate is my middle name.” I remark to Dolores. She makes that noise. The stop talking total crap noise. I hear it a lot. She has a few different ones, depending on the degree of bollocks she thinks I’m talking.

“Sometimes I think you have the impression I’m a totally different person from who I really am.” I get another noise in reply. That’s the two levels of bollocks up from the last one.

We notice that the train doesn’t terminate at Hauptbahnhof but carries on to Ostbahnhof. Which is way closer to our hotel. Just one S-Bahn stop away. We decide to carry on through to there.

They’re getting along nicely with Warschauerstrasse S-Bahn station. Another couple of years and it should be finished. They’ve only been rebuilding it for five or six. It’ll probably be ready for the opening of the new airport.

It’s boiling hot when we emerge from it. Luckily the kids are carrying the heavy stuff. No point bringing them along and not making use of their strong, young bodies.

We dump off our bags at the hotel and rush out for provisions. Bread, beer, cheese, beer, ham, beer. Plus some beer for the kids.

“I’ll get the food from the Aldi. You and the kids can go and get beer in the Getränkemarkt. I’ll see you there when I’m done.” Dolores suggests. That’s fine by me.

“Don’t spend ages looking at beer, dad.” Alexei is very impatient today.

“I’m usually pretty quick.”

“No you aren’t.”

I head to the Bavarian section at the back and start pulling out bottles.

“Why are you getting so much beer? You’ll never drink all that.”

“That sounds like a challenge to me, Lexie.”

“Daaad, hurry up.”

“You’re a right Mr. Grumpytrousers today.”

“Shut up, dad.”

While I’m scanning for bottles of impulse Schnapps, Andrew grabs a bottle of Apple Jack Daniels.

“Feeling thirsty, Andrew.”

“Well, you’ve got all that beer.”

“Only eight or nine bottles. That’s not much. And you’ve got yourselves beer, too.”

“Less than you. And there are two of us.”

No sign of Dolores. Damn, it’s hot. We shuffle our feet a little at the spirits section. Andrew is checking the prices.

“Rum is about the same price as in Ton Overmars, dad.”

“What about Korn?”

“That’s dirt cheap.”

“Absolut is cheaper here.” Alexei chips in. He knows his vodka. Getting impatient, though. Me, too. It’s the heat, I reckon.

Two Polish men arrive at the checkout with ten crates of Tyskie. And one crate of soft drinks.

“Looks like they’ll be having a quiet weekend.” I remark.

“Great racial stereotyping there, Dad.”

“I was speaking in admiration, Andrew.”

“Yeah, right.”

Alexei gets tired of waiting for his mum and trots off to Aldi. Me and Andrew remain and quietly melt. No air conditioning, sadly. It’s equally as hot inside or out.

Eventually Dolores and Alexei return and we pay. Thank Stalin for that.

The walk back to the hotel is a hot one. But at least we have beer to drink. Not that we linger long. We’re off out for some nosh. At the more hipster of the two nearby beer gardens.

On the way, I try to get a snap of the weird, slightly derelict-looking industrial building in whose grounds the beer garden is.

“Stop taking stupid photos, dad, and hurry up.” The heat is making Alexei short-tempered.

“It’s for my blog.”

“I don’t care about your stupid blog, hurry up.”

We’re all pretty thirsty. So we get a big beer each. And I mean a big beer: a litre. I get a Bürgerbräu Rodkelchen. The others get a Pils. We’re so parched that we’ve soon made big dents in them.

It’s pretty hisptery. But it’s pleasant sitting outside and the prices aren’t that hipstery.

“Do you fancy a burger, kids?”

“Yes, dad.”

“And chips?”


Dolores trots off to the food shack to order while me and the kids wrap our faces around our litre mugs.

“Let me get a snap of your beer, Alexei.”

“Dad, what did I tell you about taking stupid photos all the time?”

The burgers are pretty good and only 7 or 8 euros a pop. Which is dirt cheap compared to Amsterdam. The prices still aren’t crazy in Berlin. But how long can that last? Hose prices and rents are already going crazy. I’m taking advantage while I can.

We only stay for the one beer and head back to our hotel. Though we won’t be hanging around in our rooms. The hotel has a roof terrace. We grab a few beers and head up there. The breeze is pleasantly cool as we gaze out towards the Fernseherturm. Watching the sky slowly darken and the lights of the city sparkle up. It’s all rather soothing.

“I must get a shot of the skyline.”

“Dad, can you put that stupid camera down for once?”

* Literally German Imperial Railways. Weird how that was the name of the train company in communist East Germany. Dolores reckons they left the name unchanged after the war because they didn’t want to spend money repainting all the trains.

Bierhof Rüdersdorf
Rüdersdorfer Str. 70,
10243 Berlin.
Tel: +49 30 29360215